Our text for
reflection this morning comes from Psalm 145:
I will extol you, my
God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.
2 Every day I will
bless you, and praise your name forever and ever.
3 Great is the LORD,
and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable.
4 One generation shall
laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.
5 On the glorious
splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
6 The might of your
awesome deeds shall be proclaimed, and I will declare your greatness.
7 They shall celebrate
the fame of your abundant goodness, and shall sing aloud of your
8 The LORD is gracious
and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 The LORD is good to
all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.
10 All your works shall
give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your faithful shall bless you.
11 They shall speak of
the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power,
12 to make known to all
people your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an
everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all
Last Sunday as we
were gathered in here in worship and taking our offering for the
survivors of hurricane Katrina, someone was taking their own offering of
our laptop computer that powers that projector, helped themselves to my
office and some other equipment, and off it went. I was a little
perturbed, you know -- nothing is sacred anymore, even in the church and
the inner sanctums of my office! -- when I discovered the theft, until
it dawned on me that whatever dear, desperate soul took that, now has
all of those praise songs of music from that first service. May
they truly be blessed, as they find all of that on that computer J.
So at any rate, we're
working with backup equipment this morning. Yesterday I went to
the Apple store to purchase one of the pieces of equipment that walked
off (the little clicker that was in the computer bay) and paid for it
with a credit card. As I was signing for it I hesitated for the
date. The helpful sales clerk said it was September 10th, of
course, noting that today would be September 11th, which brought her to
comment on all the media hype and made-for-T.V. movies and all the
attention on this day. And then she made an interesting
comment: she said "I think it is really sad that there are
people I know who's birthday is on Sept 11th and they are skipping their
birthday". [I'd like to skip my birthday, but that's another
And it suddenly
dawned on me that the Bryant families are celebrating birthdays
today. My wife's birthday was last week, my father's birthday
tomorrow, and so this afternoon we will be celebrating Dad's 75th
birthday, and Judy's _0th-something birthday J.
So on this September
11th as candles are lit, services are held, songs are sung, prayers are
said to remember the victims of that tragedy and their families, the
Bryant family will be blowing out candles. And singing Happy
Birthday. We'll be opening gifts and telling stories. We'll
be laughing at jokes. We will be celebrating life and
family. Blessings and health. Children and parents.
Summer vacations, and yes, most importantly of all, Duck
That's the way it
should be -- life is right in the world. But then on Friday (it
always seems to be on Friday), though not together, the five siblings and
spouses and father will undoubtedly pause, recalling a song, saying a
prayer, lighting a candle, each in our own way remembering, observing
the 7th anniversary of the death of our mother.
And so it is in the
midst of anniversaries and birthdays, of joy and grief, and even in the
midst of life and death and the aftermath of hurricane Katrina that we
join with the Psalmist to bless the name of God whose mighty acts are
told from one generation to the next, and whose abundant goodness and
compassion is shared with all. This is the way life is and should
emphasis for this Fall, as we've already said, draws its theme --
Generations of Generosity -- from this Psalm. And it invites us to
meditate not only on the wondrous works of God but the proclamation of
God's abundant goodness from generation to generation. And it
suggests that it is the goodness of God found in human hearts which is
the foundation of all generosity.
There's a difference
between generosity and charity, though sometimes we confuse the
two. Charity gives the beggar a dollar and thereby teaches that
person to continue begging. Generosity gives the beggar new hope
and thereby teaches the possibilities of new life. Charity gives
ten dollars, twenty, a hundred, maybe more and responds to the disaster
along the gulf coast. But generosity gives people a chance to
start over again, a chance at new life. Charity gives out of what
is left over at the end of the week. Generosity gives a tithe of
10% or more at the start of the week -- off the top. You see
there's a different spirit to generosity. A different
character. And the work of God is not about charity, the work of
God is about generosity precisely because it is rooted in God's
abundant, overflowing goodness. Shared not just with some, not
just with the chosen people, not with just the good and righteous and
God's favorites, but shared, the Psalmist says, with all of God's
As my father
completes three quarters of a century, and I enter into my third quarter
of a century (although I don't look like I'm 1/2-a-century old, it's
true J --
you were supposed to say that!), I am ever more mindful of how much I
have benefited from the generation of my parents and others before
me. When you're young and your whole life is before you, you don't
think about those things. Ah, but when you are half-a-century
wise, and the experience you have gained from parenting for yourself,
you appreciate all the more what your parents endured for your
Take teaching your
children to drive, for example. I remember to this very day, with
crystal clarity, that day on which I got my driver's license. My
16th birthday of course. And the date I took that evening out in
my father's car. Would I allow my daughter to go out with a
16-year-old who had just gotten his license? Under no
Fortunately, that is
now illegal in Oregon law. You have to be driving for 6 months --
yes, Amen! As my daughter reminded me in the first service, you
have to be driving for 6 months before you can take anyone who is not in
your family in your car. I'm sure that our legislators had other
things in mind besides just the safety of their children.
And it's only now,
having sat in the passenger seat, not too many months ago with my then
15-year-old daughter in the drivers seat, out at the parking lot at
Autzen stadium (a wide, vast space with few obstacles!), that I can
imagine now the drama that my mother and father must have been going
through when they taught me how to drive, oh, 20 years ago.
That I remember
nothing of their trauma, and only of my excitement and joy, speaks
volumes of the grace and the goodwill with which they undertook that
A few years back
there was a letter to the editor that caught my attention and hooked my
ire. Calling the unfortunate of our society little more than
welfare cheats and freeloaders, this writer said that he made it in this
world by himself -- a self-made man. Pulled himself up from the
proverbial bootstraps. And couldn't understand why everyone else
couldn't do the same. As if his parents had nothing to do with
that upbringing. As if the schools he attended contributed nothing
to his education (which judging from his letter, I think maybe
not). As if the music and the art and the poetry of our culture
were all his own work. As if the roads and the courts and the
public institutions were never used by him. Are we truly aware in
conscience of every moment of how dependent we are upon those who came
before us for everything that we have?
When Carl Blood died
a year or two ago, we lost the last member of this church who was here
when this building was erected in 1911. Now think about that for a
minute. It's not that Carl remembers it -- he was only an infant
at the time -- but his parents were members of the church. He was
here when this building was built. The saints, you see, who
established this congregation in 1866, and who erected this magnificent
house of God in 1911, they're all gone. They're long gone.
Our ministry to be a light to the world here in the heart of Eugene
would be vastly different (if it existed at all) were it not for the
generosity of those past generations and the legacy that they left for
us to carry on.
The question now
is: what will be the legacy that we leave to the generation that
Will it speak of the
abundance of God's goodness to us? Will it witness to the
generosity that grew out of our faith?
Grace Morris was one
of the true saints of this church, many of you remember, who taught the
women's business bible class for 51 and a half years. Our chapel
now carries her name -- the chapel that was essentially built to
accommodate that class. When Grace died in 1994 her bequest to the
church enabled us to establish a permanent building endowment with its
first $100,000. And at the time we set up that endowment, with
Jessie Bork's considerable help, her closest confidant, our goal was to
build the endowment to the point where this building would be totally
self-sufficient. And we said that we thought it would take in the
neighborhood of 1 million dollars to do that. At the time it was a
pipe dream -- would any of us ever see that day? I'm pleased to
announce to you that with the contributions of other bequests, including
the likes of Martha Goodrich and H.A. Toothaker, and sometime in the
next year that of Jessie Bork, we will nearly be three-quarters of the
way toward that goal of 1 million dollars. Can I hear an Amen?
Now why is that
important? When we reach that goal, 100% of the regular offerings
that we give, that you put into the offering plate, 100% of it will go
to the ministry and mission of the congregation to make a difference in
people's lives, rather than to the upkeep of an old and aging
building. I dream for that day. I wait for that day.
[Applause from the congregation]. It will be an exciting day --
and we are this close.
Now I don't
anticipate anyone giving $250,000 or so in the next week or two, but if
someone can, let me know and we'll accommodate you J.
So I want to challenge us to think in the long term. To think of
those future generations. Of your grandchildren's
grandchildren. What legacy will we leave behind for them?
In the next two
decades, 41 trillion dollars will pass from one generation to the
next. I can't even begin to fathom how much money it is, I just
know it was more than I got in my paycheck last week. 41 trillion
dollars -- $41,000,000,000,000! I would suggest to you, therefore,
that the single most important document that you will ever create in
your lifetime is what? Your will. Because that document will
live on long after you cease to live on this earth.
So I have two
questions -- number one, do you have a will? And number two --
what evidence, what concrete evidence does it give it to your faith and
the abundant goodness of God?
You see, all of us
here who have in some way benefited from the ministries of this church
are beneficiaries of the generosity of Jessie, and Martha, and H.A. and
Grace. And the many others whose love for God and Christ's church
was made tangible and long-lasting (if not eternal) through their
But then why wait
until you're dead to share the generosity in your heart, if you have the
good fortune to do so? Where is the fun in that, if you can't
enjoy seeing the fruits of that work?
One of the exciting
new tools, of which there are many now--charitable gift annuities and
the like--of which I just learned from our Christian Church Foundation
is called the Stewards Bank. It is a donor-advised fund that works
something like this: Fred & Sally in their 40s receive an
inheritance, that they don't particularly need. They both have
good incomes, and they feel fairly secure and they want to do something
good with that money. I could suggest a lot of things they could
do with it, but being smarter than me, they decide they want to invest
it in a way that will continue giving a long time after they're
gone. And so they make an irrevocable gift to the Christian Church
Foundation, fully tax deductible, to establish a Stewards Bank.
The Christian Church Foundation invests it, so they don't have to worry
about any of those details. Here's where it actually gets
fun: at Christmas time they sit down with their family, with their
children (they could do it any time of the year, but Christmas just
seems to feel right), and they talk about their faith, they talk about
their Church, they talk about all of the organizations that they support
and believe in, and then they look at the earnings from that Stewards
Bank and they tell the Christian Church Foundation what to do with those
earnings. The Foundation just has one requirement -- that 51% or
more of it go to a church-related cause, Disciples related. Can be
a congregation like ours, could be a school like Northwest Christian
College, can be Week of Compassion and the efforts to help the survivors
But the rest, they
can choose for anything -- Habitat for Humanity, Doctors Without
Borders, name your favorite charity. And so they are able to give
without taking a single cent more out of their own pockets, out of their
own accounts. They are able to share of that accumulated
wealth. And in addition, they have the satisfaction of knowing
that the original sum will continue to increase as it is invested by the
Foundation and then will go to the charity of their choice that they set
up at the beginning upon their own death.
Now there are many
other such creative financial tools which are available to us to make us
better stewards by maximizing our resources not just for our own benefit
but for generations to come. Generations, who, when looking back,
will give thanks for the generosity and the faith of those who came
Praise be to God,
from who all blessings flow.